6 Reasons You’ll Be Investigating More Workplace Bullying This Year


All the signs point to a future that includes more bullying complaints in and out of the workplace

Being a predictor of the future is a chancy business – just ask all the pollsters in the last Alberta provincial election.  They were, all of them, 100 per cent wrong.

This is not a political prediction nor is it formulated from having made a gazillion robocalls to the last remaining 70 year olds who still have landlines. It is based on trolling various media sources – newspapers (how last century), blogs, chat rooms, discussion forums, twitter, web sites, book stores, and from 70 years of observing life.

The prediction is this:  You are going to be spending a considerable amount of time investigating allegations of workplace bullying and defending your organization against lawsuits claiming bullying behavior on the part of supervisors (primarily) and in some cases against peers. Here’s why.

Bullying Starts Early

Schools are increasingly engaged in promoting themselves as a safe environment for children where they will be free from violence – both physical and emotional or psychological.

Research from a National Institute of Health 2005 survey indicated that 81 per cent of US public schools experienced one or more acts of violence in 2004, up 10 per cent from the previous five-year reporting period.

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In 2005, students reported more than 600,000 violent crimes including rape, aggravated assault, and robbery. These reported incidents do not include what has been termed acts of “relational bullying”, cyber bullying, or excessive teasing and taunting.

Bullying is getting a lot more attention, and the following six situations are likely to increase the tendencies of people to report it:

1. Anti-Bullying Programs

Many schools have adopted anti-bullying programs. Students who have experienced programs such as these are both much more likely to report instances of bullying behavior when they encounter or experience it, and have a lower tolerance for disrespectful behavior which older people may just put down to a personal quirk or personality defect.

2. Targeted Legislation

Canadian Provinces and American States have either introduced or are considering the introduction of legislation specifically aimed at addressing this problem.  By 2012, 48 US States and three Canadian Provinces had legislation addressing the issue of bullying in the schools, and/or workplace.  Whenever there are laws individuals feel empowered to take action.

3. Workplace Education

Many workplaces have conducted seminars and workshops on aspects of anti-bulling such as creating a civil or respectful workplace.  When this happens you can expect an initial surge in complaints as staff try to see if their employer is really serious about the issue.

4. Increased Forums and Support

People who have experienced bullying in the past now have any number of forums in which to tell their story. Large number of people will offer encouragement, support and advice -  and the advice frequently is, “Go to HR, tell your Manager or someone senior in the company, your Union rep, or find a lawyer”.   People do not suffer in silence any longer it would seem.

5. Helicopter Parents

A sense of entitlement and helicopter parents can make it difficult for some younger people to distinguish between strong, directive management and bullying.  For some, getting a lower-than-expected performance review is tantamount to being bullied.

6. Plethora of Multimedia Information

Much more information about bullying and workplace bullying is now available on the web.  Entire sites are devoted to permitting people to tell their stories, identify different bully types, and learn about the causes of bullying behavior, etc. In the last 10 years the number of books available to people on this topic has risen dramatically.  Movies have been made.  Talk show hosts have taken up the cause and share the victim’s stories with millions of viewers.

All of these reasons, and quite possibly others I haven’t even thought of, make it more, rather than less, likely that much more of your time will be spent in investigating allegations of bullying behavior.


Psychologist, Educator and Principal of Pitsel & Associates Ltd.

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Article Published May 23, 2012

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